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How Much is Your Personal Data Worth?

Every time we post a photo or interact with a social media company, we’re putting information out there, and that information should still be ours. If somebody is profiting from our data and we decide willingly to partner with a company that’s making use of this information, then that’s only fair as long as we get a slice,” Andrew Yang told The New York Times in a story published Tuesday. “Right now we’re unaware of the value that’s changing hands and we’re definitely not getting a data check in the mail every season.

Universal income may not be sustainable, but being paid for our personal data is. Marketers have long searched for ways to best reach their potential customers. They’ve sliced and diced sample audiences for decades looking for formulas within demographics. Social media created opportunities to go deeper, first to analyze crowds with more depth, and now to go extremely deep on individuals before loading them into psychological profiles that determine what they are most likely to buy. 

So doesn’t it make sense if Facebook has 300,000 points of personal data on me that I should get paid each time that data is bought?

Personal data as a commodity has now surpassed oil in value. Why don’t I get a piece of that? It wouldn’t be difficult. Everytime an ad is served up to me I should get a percentage of the price it costs to place it. A quick check of my ClearWEB Browser indicates that 30,000 ads have been blocked this year. Should the marketers be pay8ing me to talk to them? Let’s figure they paid a dime for each time I had to see an ad (and yes, some of them I do want to see). That would be roughly $3,000 a year. That takes care of a lot of groceries.

What if I choose the kinds of ads I want to see because I am in the market for those products?

Advertising budgets are always being scrutinized for effectiveness. So what if I am in the market for a car and I create a profile: Male. Over 50 years old. Income over $75,000 a year. Good credit. Looking for SUV. What would an advertiser pay per ad to engage me in a product discussion? $5 for 5 minutes? $10 for 20 minutes? The profit on autos is astounding, something in the neighborhood of $6,000 per vehicle. So since I am not in a dealership, give me $2,000 in discounts. And pay me $25 just to listen to your pitch. That seems fair.

Same should apply to appliances, vacation getaways, all kinds of insurance, and every piece of clothing I’m interested in—especially shoes.

By valuing ourselves as a commodity we’re able to earn a bit of that advertising budget. 

We deserve to be paid the value that we represent to the company selling to us. But first, we have to own our personal data, we need control over which parts of it we want to monetize and which parts we want to keep private. And we have to change the way we think about personal data—it is our own personal natural resource. We just have to harness it.
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